What a year it’s been for Robin Lehner.
The New York Islanders goalie just put the finishing touches on the finest season of his nine-year NHL career, going 25-13-5 with a sterling .930 save percentage, 2.13 goals-against average, and six shutouts.
Along with teammate and fellow goalie Thomas Greiss, Lehner won took home the William Jennings Trophy for the goaltender(s) who allowed the fewest goals in a season.
The netminders played a key role in the Islanders becoming the first team in 100 years to allow the fewest goals in a year one season after allowing the most.
Leher’s transformation to one of the top goalies in hockey this season would have been impressive enough given his career on the ice.
The 27-year-old was a backup in six of his first eight NHL seasons with the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres. It was only in the last two seasons that he received No. 1 duties with the Sabres, starting 108 games over two seasons from 2016-2018.
Playing on one of the worst teams in hockey in Buffalo, Lehner’s numbers took a downturn, especially last season when he put up a .908 save percentage and 3.01 goals-against average.
But it’s Leher’s feats off the ice that makes his story one of the best you’ll see in hockey this season.
Throughout his professional career, Lehner battled with drug and alcohol addiction, mental health issues that included suicidal thoughts before being diagnosed with bipolar 1 with manic phases.
He went to rehab, got back on track, and when no other team in the NHL would give him a chance, the Islanders stepped up and signed him to a one-year deal.
It’s been one of the best gambles made by first-year president and general manager Lou Lamoriello.
Lehner has become the darling of Long Island and Brooklyn as he’s developed a mutually adoring relationship with an Islanders fan base that saw him play a large role in the team’s 103-point, their best year since 1983-84.
The Swede is never afraid to show his appreciation for the Islanders faithful and provided another feel-good story just last week when he gave his stick to a seven-year-old fan born with half a heart who had requested the netminder’s paraphernalia.
He might have been just as pumped as the fans following a Mar. 30 win against his former team, the Sabres, which clinched a playoff spot for the Islanders.
“Playoffs, baby! Playoffs! F***ing right,” he exclaimed before applauding the Nassau Coliseum crowd while being interviewed by MSG on the ice.
That’s how you win the hearts of Islanders fans.
While the Islanders clinched the No. 2 seed in the Metropolitan Division over the weekend, ensuring they would get home-ice advantage in a playoff series for the first time since 1988, Lehner was celebrating another milestone of his own.
On Saturday night, Lehner reached the one-year mark of his sobriety.
“Home ice! What a season. Don’t know what to say,” Lehner wrote on his Twitter. “The best is ahead of us now and it’s going to be a great opportunity for this group… Now 1 year sober going into the playoffs with this group is something that I could only have dreamed of 1 year ago. one day at a time. Let’s do this.”
His storybook season continues on Wednesday night as the Islanders take the Nassau Coliseum ice for Game 1 of the best-of-seven, first-round series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.